More than 4.5 million Florida votes are already in before Election Day and Democrats used the last full official day of in-person early voting to extend their lead over Republican ballots cast by 167,000, according to this morning's figures.Note: But for the numbers, the language in this blog is nearly identical to yesterday's. It's repeated here to provide context. The Saturday early vote numbers that were available Sunday morning weren't fully updated. Now they're as current as can be, along with the most-recent absentee-ballot numbers. And a big shout-out to Trevor Aaronson, with the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting, who helped pick up the early vote data analysis slack the past 3 days.
The last day of early voting was a whopper: a record 385,000 people early voted.
In all, about 38 percent of registered voters have cast ballots and about 50 of likely voters have. There are still absentee ballots pouring in.
That means wait times at polling stations on Election Day will be much shorter than the early vote wait times that have plagued South Florida for the past eight days. Tens of thousands of more early votes, by way of absentee ballots, are still flowing in and a few thousand (but not tens of thousands) more will come by way of in-person absentee ballots cast at some election supervisors' offices in select counties, such as Miami Dade (more here on that).
Early voting was shortened in 2012 compared to 2008, and the numbers are smaller.
According to George Mason University's United States Elections Project (which tracks early voting) about 2.6 million in-person early votes were cast in 2008 over 14 days in Florida. This year, after the GOP-led Legislature and Republican Gov. Rick Scott cut the days to eight, it's 2.4 million. But absentee ballot voting is stronger. In 2008, 1.7 million cast absentee ballots and this year the number will exceed 2 million.
Guess which type of voting Republicans specialize in? Absentee ballots. Democrats do better at in-person early voting. Though more fraud-prone, absentee ballot voting wasn't touched in the election law Scott signed that shortened early voting days.
In all, Republicans have cast 79,000 more absentee ballots than Democrats. Democrats have cast 247,000 more in-person early votes.
Using the GMU numbers (and there are other numbers that differ from them), Democrats had a cumulative lead as high as 363,000 ballots in 2008, or about 8 percentage points. The Republicans say the Democrats' 2008 lead was about 315,000. And the Democrats say their lead was about 269,000. Our latest analysis of those 2008 voters who remain on the rolls now shows the Democrat early ballot/pre-Election Day lead would be about 282,000 if the presidential election four years ago were held with the current electorate.
Regardless, that Democrat lead has been cut to 4 points, or 167,000 -- and not just because of the shortened early voting period.
There's a sense of diminished Democratic enthusiasm for the president compared to 2008. And the Democrats actually lost more voters between 2008 and 2012 than Republicans and the Democratic Party grew at a slower pace (this was before Scott's voter bill was signed in 2011).
Also of note: a Miami Herald poll indicated Romney gets more crossover votes than Obama and is winning the early vote anyway.
Early vote numbers: